Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Nature Of The Complainte

Morning folks and apologies to you if you were expecting Part 4 of the torturous Karavan Khronikles, however I have been beset by a modern problem . . lack of time. C'mon, Christmas is nearly here - what do you do when you have a few spare weekend hours . . yes you go and do normal things with the family, not lock yourself away in the dark and curse . . .
So, to that end, and being of the mind that I wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas anyway, I thought I would provide a reflective theme for the end of the year.

Cap'n Bruce (Robbins) of the Online Darkroom fame and I have been having on/off emailed discussions recently - he's complained of little time and a wish to slim down his vision to something a bit more simple; I have expressed a desire to purchase yet another camera, or failing that, get something like a 50mm Summicron for the M2 just to see how far I can exploit the 35mm negative. Quite a difference!
To excuse myself a little I will say this - for many years I have wanted a Hasselblad - simply because they are beautiful and the lens quality is superlative, however they are not a cheap camera, and actually when I start to think about it, can I go back to ye olde square again? I've spent years making square photographs with the (currently in need of a service) Rollei T - I have beaten the format to death - can I really dedicate a huge chunk of money to it again?
Besides I find I like a more oblong format these days, however (besides 35mm) I do actually have two options in my arsenal with regard to that shape - the Koni Omega 6x7 and my Wista 5x4. "Great" you're thinking, "lucky bugger to have two nice cameras like that," however (and here is The Nature Of The Complainte) as a photographer, one is never satisfied! 
Weird isn't it? 
There's always a hankering for something else; these being, in no particular order:

Quality Of Negative
Quality Of Lens
Ease Of Use
Out Of Focus Characteristics
Fun Quotient

It's terrible really, because I believe that rather like that itch under the plaster-cast you got when you broke a limb at the age of 14, this photographic hankering is an un-scratchable thing.
Go on. How many photographers do you know who own just one camera and one lens? Is the HCB ethic of one camera/one lens really alive and kicking these days? I sincerely doubt it, and I am open to someone pointing me in the right direction of someone who does do it.
Bruce wonders whether he could just slim himself down to a rangefinder (yeah I know, they'll have to bury him with an OM2, so I can't see him getting rid of them) and a couple of lenses. He's even talking about selling his SL66 . . . and you know what? I can't see it - the man loves cameras!
Me? Well a new camera is always a rather nice prospect, but do I need one?
And here folks things get weird, because you will be hard-wired into my thought processes and it isn't pretty:

- = Bad
- = Confused

OK, so the pocket money is beginning to mount up nicely . . what do you fancy buying?

Well, the M2 is the one camera I could never get rid of, but one lens?

Bloody difficult. You couldn't live with just the 1934 Elmar, or the 50's Canon 28mm and 50mm f1.8. And superb though it is, could you really spend the rest of your life just photographing with the 90mm f4 Elmar? I think you know what the answer is.

OK . . M2 and 90mm Elmar . . that's a given.

Well, yeah, it's a start, so a 50mm Summicron? Would that satisfy things? Oh and on the wide side, a 35mm Summaron or Summicron?

You see what I mean?
It is impossible to be satisfied.
And then I go from there to:

Well, for all I know I moaned about it (a lot) but the Pentax 67 had a fantastic selection of lenses - maybe I could get one of those again, but wait a minute I've already got a 6x7 in the Koni and that is great.

But you haven't got a wide for it!

Yeah, a wide . . maybe a wider format would do the trick, maybe 6x9? 

Well yeah, so how about a 6x9 back for the Wista? 

Too cumbersome really, and I want something I can walk around with easily.

OK, so a Fuji 6x9? yeah nice, but a fixed lens - could you live with a fixed lens?
Nope - deffo couldn't, well the only option would be a Mamiya Press - you get a few different focal lengths for them.

Yeah, nice, but didn't Bruce say they were a little 'agricultural'?

He did, but those photos of his taken with them are really nice, and then there's John Davies and his UK landscapes, and also Don McCullin.

You've got a point there - stick it on the list. Of coures, the real deal would be AN ALPA!

Shit, yeah, an Alpa! But isn't that more expensive than a house?

Well, nearly, but you've got two good kidneys, and you can just survive on one apparently.

Go for it!

And I leave for work, bouyed by the thought that in a couple of years with one less kidney, I'll be traveling around taking amazing photos with God's gift to the photographer, The Alpa
However, this conversation is replaced a day later by:

You know, 6x12 is a bloody interesting format isn't it?

Too right. Are there any decent cameras out there? And how about a 6x12 back for the Wista?

Too cumbersome.

OK, so it's Linhof, Horseman or bust?

It certainly is, but then don't you think 6x17cm provides a greater sense of space?

Hmmmm - yeah, too right.

OK, so how do you feel about a Linhof or a Fuji . . or how about a Hasselblad X-Pan? You wouldn't need a bigger enlarger for that!

Anyone got a scalpel?

To be replaced a day later by:

You know I really like the look of those Eisenstadt New York photos he made with the old Rollei Standard.

Beautiful aren't they - and they're pretty cheap too! But then again a Zeiss Ikoflex is another option.

Yeah, I'd forgotten about Zeiss . . well how about a Super-ikonta? You can get them in 6x9 too!

You're brilliant, but of course you realise that the Voigtlander is more highly regarded, especially with a Skopar . .

Oh FECK, I forgot about that . . .

And that is The Nature Of The Complainte folks - it is a never-ending circular conversation that questions the use of every format and the quality of every considered camera. I even found myself discussing 645 and Sony NEXs with Bruce and that shows you the madness.
Basically every photographer wants to spend money on new gear and make that one photograph that, when the relations come to clear their house out, might cause someone to pause and say "that's a NICE photograph" before everything gets chucked in the skip.
We, as photographers, are afraid of death (to paraphrase Moonstruck) and we want to be remembered, and only by spending as much money as we can on gear, can we go some way to assuage our subconscious that indeed, our travail on earth as captors of light hasn't been a total waste of time!

Leica M2, 50mm f1.8 Canon

Leica IIIf, 1934 Leitz 50mm f3.5 Elmar

Olympus Trip, 40mm f2.8 Zuiko

Rolleiflex T, 16-On Kit, 75mm f3.5 Tessar

Rolleiflex T, 16-On Kit, 75mm f3.5 Tessar

Rolleiflex T, 16-On Kit, 75mm f3.5 Tessar

Rolleiflex T, 75mm f3.5 Tessar

Rolleiflex T, 75mm f3.5 Tessar

Rolleiflex T, 75mm f3.5 Tessar

Pentax 6x7, 75mm f3.5 Super Takumar

Pentax 6x7, 75mm f3.5 Super Takumar

Koni Omega 6x7, Super Omegon 90mm, f3.5

Agfa 6x9 Box Camera

Wista 5x4, Kodak Ektar, 203mm f7.7

Wista 5x4, 150mm f5.6 Schneider Symmar-S

Sinar 5x4, 90mm f6.8 Schneider Angulon

Sinar 5x4, 90mm f6.8 Schneider Angulon

All of the above are physical prints, printed by me - and blow me, can you see much difference?
Nope, me neither - truth be told, for the maximum print size I can make in my tiny darkroom (11x14 at a push) any format will suffice, and yet The Nature Of The Complainte dictates that I should still hunger after a camera/lens combo that is satisfying, sharp, easy to use, high quality, capable of capturing light with a unique signature and all round FUN TO USE, when in actuality, I have any number of them already!
Elsewhere it is known as GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) - I'll just call it MAD (Mental Acquisition Dither) because nothing seems to satisfy that need for more gear. 
I genuinely thought that when I bought the Leica M2, that would be it, but it wasn't . . same with the recent late-manufacture 90mm Super Angulon, a lens so perfect that it makes you want to cry . . . I've barely (sic) scratched its surface and I am already thinking about something else. 
Those rare beast photographers with refined vision and a sense that more cameras means more responsibility, are lucky, for they have no chains to bind them to the earth and can fly into visual legend, but in reality, do they really exist? Do you??
For the rest of us toiling away at the coal-face, the need for more stuff pretty much dominates the hobby. And why not. There's something about a camera, especially a mechanical camera that says This Is It. Mankind's ingenuity and engineering finesse distilled into one perfect machine. A thing to be admired, acquired and used; to be loved and loved again. 
In short it's just about perfection, and a desire to render the world in a perfect way. 
Aside from just snapping away at any old shite as the majority of photography seems to be, surely as a concerned and dedicated photographer half our ouevre is to render an imperfect world in a way which hopefully serves as a reminder to the rest of the herd that (under the right circumstances and with the right machine [and ultimately under our control]) the world can be a perfect and visually beautiful place. 
Like some lost ancient tract, impossibly discovered, a good and symbiotic camera can be that key to the kingdom we all desire.

And so folks for the New Year I fear the search, like some Biblical quest, will go on. But in the meantime, may I take this opportunity to wish you the best for the season.
God bless and thanks for reading.